Toronto’s Jamieson inspires next generation of women’s soccer players in Jamaica

A report by Laura Armstrong for The STAR

Frisco, Texas — in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — was under flash-flood watch last month when the Canadian, American, Jamaican and Panamanian soccer teams gathered for the CONCACAF Women’s Championship semifinals.

Goalkeeper Yazmeen Jamieson and her Jamaican teammates were unprepared. They didn’t have personalized team gear like the Canadians and Americans did. Jamaica’s coaching staff made a trip to a local Costco and bought jackets and mitts in bulk — out of their own pockets — to deal with the unexpectedly nasty weather.

There were no Jamaican crests on the raincoats, but the players were appreciative, just like they were for the nameless uniforms they played in — second-hand jerseys because of a lack of funding.

“As much as sometimes I’m like, ‘I wish we had the funds because we deserve this, we’re playing professionally, it’s embarrassing,’ we still deal with it because we’re the pioneers,” Jamieson said. “We’re going to have to go through this so that the future generation doesn’t have to go through it.”

Jamieson has seen firsthand the positive impact women’s soccer can have on a country.

The 20-year-old goalkeeper, part of the first Jamaican squad to seal a FIFA World Cup berth by finishing third in Texas, is from Toronto. Growing up, she played with the Unionville Milliken Soccer Club. Today, she represents Ottawa’s Carleton University at the varsity level and, like many girls, has looked up to Christine Sinclair, Kadeisha Buchanan and other women who put soccer on the map in Canada.

Now, she want to be a similar role model for women in Jamaica.

“It’s not just about the sport,” Jamieson said. “Soccer can get you an education. Soccer can get you publicity for anything you want to do in life. I want people to understand that women’s soccer is very important to the development of females in the Caribbean.”

The daughter of a Jamaican father and Grenadian mother says she has always been in touch with her roots. She also associated food, music and family with her culture, but it wasn’t until an unexpected tryout with the Reggae Girlz — while visiting Jamaica with her club team in 2013, when she was 15 — that Jamieson made the soccer connection.

At that point, Jamaica’s women’s team didn’t officially exist. It folded in 2010 because of a lack of funding, but was brought back in 2014 thanks to Cedella Marley, daughter of musician Bob Marley, who has sponsored the team ever since through the Bob Marley Foundation.

Jamieson made the team, but the long process of getting her Jamaican citizenship kept her from playing right away. Two years ago, she tried out for the under-20 team. Less than a year and a half later, she was playing for the senior team and vying for a spot at the Women’s World Cup.

Jamaica played Canada in the CONCACAF tournament opener, a 2-0 Canadian win. Jamieson has never been involved with Canada’s national program, but remembers getting emotional during the playing of “O Canada.”

“It was surreal, because I was like, ‘I’m here, right now,’” she said. “I never thought that this would ever happen. It was never really a realistic dream for me, so to be on that platform with (the Canadians), to shake their hand after the game, to be equals … that was amazing.”

Jamieson isn’t the only Canadian involved with the Jamaican squad. Hubert Busby, also from Toronto, volunteers as the goalkeeping coach. In Jamieson, he says he sees a raw netminder with a lot of upside and a goal of unseating No. 1 Sydney Schneider. Busby also sees an energetic team player with a high work rate.

“Whether you’re born in Toronto or born in New York or born in Kingston, Jamaica, there’s a unique culture about Jamaicans that is quite profound,” Busby said, “especially in your upbringing, the things that are valued in our culture.”

By becoming the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup, Busby believes Jamaican team’s “Cinderella story” was able to break down some stereotypes and chauvinistic views in the country.

“Those things are much bigger than the game itself,” Busby said. “Those are the things that allow us to play our part in reshaping the views and minds of people in the island, and for Jamaicans across the world.”

In preparing for next summer’s showcase in France, they vow to do more than just pick the team and enjoy the ride. They want to make an impact.

That’s already begun — by paving the way for the next generation of female players.

“It’s definitely developing,” Jamieson said, “but slowly.”

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